The Peer Support Workforce: Results of a National Survey

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Objective: Given the burgeoning role of peer specialists in the mental health workforce, more information is needed about their work roles, tasks, settings, training, compensation, and work satisfaction. Method: Using both purposive and snowball sampling, the authors recruited a national sample of individuals employed as peer specialists and a variety of other peer provider positions. They conducted an online survey to query respondents about various aspects of their work life. A total of 608 participants completed the survey, of which 597 responses were usable for these analyses. Results: Results suggest that individuals in the United States identifying themselves as peer specialists (or similar titles) work in a wide variety of settings and spend the majority of their work time providing direct peer support. However, a significant number of individuals also reported performing nondirect peer support tasks such as administrative work, teaching skills, and systems-level advocacy. Average compensation ranged from $10 to $20 per hour. Peer specialists reported a significant amount of satisfaction with their work but still perceive a lack of recognition for their roles. Conclusions and Implications for Practice: Results of this survey provide critical information about the job characteristics of peer specialists and data that should be informative for mental health authorities as they address the needs of this workforce. However, our findings also suggest that ambiguity remains regarding the roles, tasks, and training of peer specialists, which could benefit from further study that would help to clarify the unique role of these professionals within the mental health arena.

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